Whether or not I have eighty two thousand and fifty or five, I will spend them with those most precious to me. The fact is, each second I am able to spend in the presence of those dear to me is a gift. Having a small child in the house makes me so very aware of the passing of time. We are still learning how to cope with my illness, and the ultimate end game there in. In spite of all those issues, however, life goes on. Once again, I find myself amazed that another season is upon me. I would swear, that the older Madison gets, the more momentum the years seem to gather. Each one passes more swiftly than its predecessor. Another school year is drawing to a close. I feel like crying. (Well, maybe not crying per se, but the sensation is bittersweet none the less.) It feels like she began first grade perhaps a month ago. But no, Easter was a month ago; and before that St. Paddy’s Day, and Valentine’s Day, and the Christmas Holidays before those. I was involved too. Field trips, family lunches, class plays, etc., yet I can’t shake the feeling that I missed out somehow.
I wonder if this is a trend. I better fasten some kind of time fabric safety belt. I am liable to fall off or throw up if things get too much faster.
I feel so fortunate that Madison was a preemie. That gave me bonus time with her as a baby. For that time, I will be eternally grateful. She seemed to stay small just a bit longer. She is making up for it now, growing like a sunflower. It’s funny, she still feels tiny to me. When I hug that little frame she feels just the same as her infant self did. Yet, my eyes can see that she is not. What the brain will do to keep pain from manifesting sometimes. As children grow, we parents have our own grieving to do without really getting to acknowledge our pain. We would surely miss out on something wonderful happening in the current season if we did. We cannot afford to wallow in the loss of what WAS, or we will lose out on what IS as well.
At times it seems more profound, this transformation from an infant through childhood, adolescent years, and young adult. Most of the time it happens to peoples children without ever getting a second thought. Lately, I cannot seem to stop thinking about it. Looking at pictures, wanting her to stay…knowing that is not possible. Trying desperately to arm her emotional and spiritual arsenal with things like self worth and grace, and the fruit of the spirit. Any little thing to give her an edge over the relentless pounding that life has waiting for her. Again I must stop and focus, if I become consumed with what has not yet happened…I WILL MISS NOW. Now, this moment, is all any of us have anyhow. I hate the idea of the enemy using my own neuroses to steal any more of my precious moments from me. Or from Madison for that matter. Or from my sister, brother, adult children and mother. I guess I’m still taking each thought captive.
past tense: humiliated; past participle: humiliated
make (someone) feel ashamed and foolish by injuring their dignity and self-respect, especially publicly.
That’s where I am tonight. At least somewhat. Except, I am the one who made myself feel foolish. I am the one who injured my dignity and self-respect, and yes it was publicly. Don’t get me wrong…I have definitely injured my dignity far far worse than today. Holy shit when I was regularly consuming alcoholic beverages injuring my dignity was a daily occurence. Something about today sucked though. Why do I have such a hard time telling people I cannot help them? Why do I pretend I am just as able bodied as healthy people? Truth be told I am less able bodied than some paraplegics that I know. Truth be told, I am not as strong as a 10 year old girl. That’s a hard one to swallow too. I used to be so, so STRONG. Honest!! I know you’re thinking “Yeah ok…how strong really could you have been?” I’m telling you, I was freakishly strong. FREAKISHLY STRONG!! But I am not anymore. Today I tried to help some ladies who were running a bake sale for my daughters school try to break down and move the equipment back to the school afterward, because I have an open bed truck. When I originally said I would transport the stuff, I didn’t imagine I would be doing any actual moving of stuff. I still don’t know why I did. I mean, they did need the help. One trip from the gate of the school to the place we put the tables (approx 20 feet) and my fingers were so blue it looked scary, not to mention me huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf. The 5th grade girl I was carrying the table with looked very worried and I know I must have gotten at least 30 shades of gray, if not all 50…and trust me there was not a hint of sexy accompanying THIS gray.
So why didn’t I just say “Oh gosh I’d love to help but I just can’t because I could cause my heart to explode, or at the very least feel horribly embarrassed when I realize how little I am able to actually HELP.” Why didn’t I say “I have PAH, which causes me extreme distress when I shower, much less move furniture…Sorry.” Why Why Why???
Let’s go back 14 years ago. My emotional or mental health was weak for sure. But my body? Shit no I thought I was physically unstoppable. I could move an entire household full of furniture with the help of only my son. I was strong enough to accidently break every doorknob I came in contact with, and some car handles too. I put my foot through the door panel of a car when I kicked it to stay open once, and litterally crumbled a fawcet handle in my grip when I turned on the sink one day. I also kicked right through the laundry room door of my parents new house in hopes of surprise attacking a possible burglar in hiding. No, there wasn’t any burglar…but we ALL heard the front door open and close, and when I called out, there was narry a response. Getting up to check it out had to be done, and the only possible place they could have been was the laundry room. My over stimulated adrenalized self put my foot right through the door. The hole is there to this day. It mocks me…says teasingly “Let’s see you do that now, oh winded one.”
It’s safe to say I assumed these ladies were well aware of my physical limitations. Except I realized that they were not well aware by any means. Well and why should they be, I mean I don’t advertise my PAH. I don’t have a stamp on my forehead that says “Exacerbated shortness of breath with exertion…use with caution!” Or wear a T-shirt that says “I may look like I am only in my 40’s, but I have the lungs of an 80 year old!” (Doctor Early’s words, not mine) I mean seriously, I don’t even wear my oxygen like I need to for fear of looking like some sort of sympathy glutton, THAT’S IT!!! That’s why I did it. Whew! I am still so embarrassed, and maybe I am ashamed that I am sick? Really? Why would I be ashamed that I am afflicted with this disease? I don’t have that answer. It doesn’t make any sense. Maybe I am afraid that people won’t believe me, and that they’ll think I’m just lazy. I mean, truth be told I don’t usually look sick. Unless I’ve just gone up a flight of stairs or something. Or walked across the street. I guess I need to let it go. I have no control over what others think. Whether I like it or not. 😦
It was a cold day. Not the biting, freezing, “OMG I can’t believe it gets this cold!” type of cold. More like “Do I need my hoodie?” cold, as we in the South/Western United States are accustomed to for January and early February. Never the less, I didn’t wish to be outside in less than a hoodie, and the skies were abundantly grey. I don’t remember now what day of the week it could have been, or even the year. It had to be 1999. Maybe just after the Y2K New Year. I was repacking my holiday decorations while talking with a girlfriend on the phone. I had been bending over at the waist looking in a box, and when I stood up some thing from out in front of my 4-plex apartment building caught my attention. At that moment, I can remember hearing my girlfriend talking, and I said “Whoa wait, hold on just a sec dude…” because I thought what I was seeing from my second story apartment was a girl in a bikini out front. “What the fuck am I looking at?” I said it out loud as I walked closer to my front windows, but clearly was not expecting an answer from my friend on the phone. “Holy Shit…dude, I think she’s naked!”, was the exclamation that followed much to both our surprise. “What? Where are you? Who’s naked?” Lorie asked me in earnest. “I don’t know WHO is naked, but it’s definitely a HER!” I laughed to my friend, “and I am at home, YOU CALLED ME remember?” (Yes, believe it or not this was well before the days when folks had telephones with them at all times. I was on my landline, though thankfully it was cordless!) It was here that I realized there were two people involved in the naked lady scene unfolding practically in my front yard. One naked lady and one NOT naked man. He was making his way hastily back toward the front of my building from the south east corner down the street, visibly shaken by the sight.
“Oh hell this is gonna be good!” I giggled gleefully to my pal. “What the heck is going on out there?” she queried. I quickly gave her the low down, at least what I surmised at that time. A couple that lived in the building next door to mine were having a disagreement of sorts. I knew both of them by first name only, although he had been a regular fixture in my neighborhood since I had moved into my apartment back in August of 1998. She was the newest addition to the lower middle class “triangle” area that police referred to when speaking of the ghetto in the small town in which we lived. This guy had a thing for single moms, so I wasn’t surprised to see him back hanging at that building when she had moved in some weeks earlier. “Looks like new neighbors are fighting…hang on I’ll take you with me.” I said to my girlfriend, and began to trot down the front stairway toward the street side of the apartments. Each building had 4 units. All had one entry way in front, that was an enclosed hallway with stairs. Two doors at the bottom of the stairs, and two doors at the top. The hallway area was common, I mean we all (those of us who lived there)had access to it and used it. Up top, between the two upstairs apartment doors and directly above the main entrance to the building, was a window. Old school “tore open the shudders and threw up the sash” type of window.
At the bottom of the stairs the main entrance to my building stood wide open, as usual. The guy was passing in front of me oblivious to me tho. All attention was on the woman, who stood about 14 feet to the left of me once I made it to my front stoop. “What’s goin on now dude? Is she ok?” I stifled a laugh, “Hell Lorie she’s out here fucking NAKED, of course she’s not ok!” The man was talking to her in soothing, calming tones. It seemed pretty clear to me that she was EXTREMELY distraught at the idea of him leaving, and he is trying to patiently and kindly wrangle her back toward their apartment. They get just about to their front stoop, he just about gets her inside their common hall when I see him begin to move hurriedly back toward the direction he had just come from. That was when I heard her scream “But I LOVE YOU TODD!!! TODD NOOOOOOO!!” And as I stood on my front stoop, with God and my friend Lorie as my witnesses, I watched as the naked lady sobbed hysterically,threw arms open wide,and begged for Todd to stay. “Note to self…not a good way to behave in public, no matter how distraught I am”, and I begin to share this thought with my friend when in a flash the naked lady is hanging halfway out the second story window of HER building…sobbing and screaming for Todd to come back. “Oh my God this bitch” is all I can manage before she does the unthinkable, and I watch her naked body fly from the second story window and hear the sickening sound of skull hitting concrete stoop. “FUCK I GOTTA CALL 911” and now, feeling not nearly as giddy I abruptly end my call and call for an ambulance. I see Todd looking as horrified as I feel from across the street trying to decide what to do next. “Go Go Go! You are gonna get blamed for this…” I begin to wave Todd back away from the scene and while I am explaining to the 911 operator what has taken place this bitch gets up and runs up those fucking stairs of hers like a blur and then, while I am still on phone call with 911 comes crashing back down out of the second story window AGAIN!!! This time the entire window unit, frame, pieces of building, all of it come down with her. “Holy Shit she just did it again!” I exclaim to the dispatcher…(who wants to know way more about things than I am capable of articulating any more) “Lady I don’t know about any drugs or weapons, but hopefully those sirens I hear are coming HERE, cuz she is about to go do it AGAIN!!! Please hurry!!! I don’t want to watch this anymore!!” Then “AW FUCK,” as she bounds up the stairs for the third time, determined to bounce herself off that stoop until Todd changed his mind I guess.
Thankfully the sirens were louder than life and in my face within a few more seconds, and while I tried to explain to one of the EMT’S that they needed to hurry cuz she was going for the “third time is a charm” others realized what I meant and were already climbing up after her. There was much struggling and screaming going on. She put up one HELL of a fight. For a few minutes I thought maybe an EMT would be the next to be ejected from that window. All in all it took 6 firemen to carry the, writhing, foaming,squirming, lady to the back of the ambulance. Still naked, and now hogtied, and looking much more like Linda Blair from the Exorcist, what with pieces of building in her hair and insulation/asbestos covering her upper torso. Note to self…if ever desperate for Todd not to leave, this is not a good way to get my needs met.
Ah, but in all truthfulness, Todd is the reason I write this little story today. Probably 8 or so years ago I happened to be in the company of people I didn’t know but who had heard the story. They were talking about it, and they were under the impression that Todd was the reason she went out the window. Oh no, well, he may have been the reason…but he was across the street. No they insisted,. he threw her out that window. “No,” I insisted “I was certain he did not!” There are 3 of us who KNOW what happened that day. I have no idea if Todd is still getting blamed for that whole psychotic break, but I wanted to set the record straight. He threw no one out that window. He did not.
SCREAMING,NAKED,JUMPING,LADY threw herself out that window, TWICE. (and lived)
“It is only when we become aware or are reminded that our time is limited that we can channel our energy into truly living” Ludovico Einaudi
There is a soft knock at the bathroom door. It’s my daughter, she is 6. “Mom are you okay?” I’m sure I feel as badly as I sound. The steam from the shower has loosed the garbage in my chest just enough to cause an endless torrent of coughing, coughing, coughing. “Shut the door PLEASE! I’m wet and it’s FREEZING with the door open!” I am expecting her to leave at this point, but am surprised when she steps inside and closes the door behind her.
“Could I pick out your clothes today?” She asks timidly. I roll my eyes and sigh. “No I’m wearing pajamas today, honey look at me…I know you can hear me coughing.” I am calm but clearly annoyed by the request. “But it’s Christmas….” I look into that tiny little face, into those giant sized blue eyes as they slowly, so so slowly, begin to fill with tears.
“If you’re gonna stand there, I need you to help me dry off…hand me my hair towel.” I say trying to change the subject. It works (temporarily at least), and at last I’m sitting on the toilet seat wrapped in a towel and panting, (between coughing spasms) trying to apply lotion to my limbs without passing out. “Hang on I’ll be right back”, she doesn’t miss a beat and before I know it she has returned with my oxygen canula. “It’s all ready for you” she says. I regard her lovingly and put it on. “Mabel, what would I do without you?” I kid, knowing she love/hates her newest nickname. It is at that moment that I know, I’m gonna let her pick out my clothes today. It is at that moment that I dig down deep…deeper than I knew I had in me, and find the “me” she sees when she looks at me.
Once again the pint sized miracle I named Madi May has unknowingly saved the day, turning what would have been a pathetic sickly me into someone so much more. She helps me to my room, and picks out a dress that later on, my brother in law will lovingly refer to as my ‘lumberjack’ outfit. It is an over sized flannel shirt, turned dress with zip up front instead of buttons. Off white nylons and black, knee length, hi heel boots. She then watches to make sure I apply make up and have a hair do that suits the occasion as well. When she asks for a little lipstick too, I smile and tell her to “pucker up”. Thank you Madison, for not letting me cop out!! Thank you so much for forcing me to continue to live until I die. Thank you for being brave enough to do it. Thank you God for giving me the wisdom this time around to allow her words to penetrate me, for allowing me to hear her, really HEAR her… and continue to move me in the direction of the living instead partially surrendering to death prematurely.
We had a wonderful day. We enjoyed ourselves in spite of some circumstances beyond our control that could have, but did not, negatively impact our day. SUCCESS was ours and I am so happy for allowing one simple little request to change my entire outlook for the day.
11:18 PM 3/31/2016
Madison: “Mom, do you think when you die…” she hesitated.
Me: “Do I think what honey?” I asked the question, not realizing the hesitation was really the end of her question. I thought she was going to ask me where she should live or who would be taking care of her etc., but no.
Madison: “No, do you think when you’re dead. THAT’S what I mean. I mean, when you’re dead do you think?” She giggled a little, which made me smile.
Me: “Oh…he he he” I giggled too, “Um that is an excellent question.” I said out loud, but inside I was panicked.
Madison: “It is?”
Me: “It is what?”
Madison: “A good question?”
Me: “Oh, yes absolutely! A very good question!” Keep it light Mar…keep it light!
Madison: “How come?”
Me: “Well because I don’t know the answer!” Then we both laughed out loud for a few seconds. “No, really tho…I don’t know the answer to that, and unfortunately I can’t ask anyone who would know because they’re dead!” More laughter…whew!
Madison: Still laughing “Right cause that’s just too weird right? I mean like (in a funny, manlike voice ) “hello, I can’t talk to you ever again now and you’ll never see me again cuz I’m dead” right?” By the time she had finished the sentence she wasn’t laughing anymore. I could see her lip quivering in the darkness. I wanted to go back to us laughing about death again but there was no way to do that without minimizing her feelings from here. Once again, the elephant in the room had been gnawing at my babys subconscious….I wondered for how long.
Me: “Please don’t cry honey. Please…it’s ok to wonder and stuff but don’t worry yourself about it. All worry does is make you feel horrible and rob you of having life with me while you can. While I AM here. I have felt really good lately…ya know, and who knows Madi. Maybe I will live to see you graduate from HIGH SCHOOL! HA! Wouldn’t that be something awesome! Seriously May, try not to worry about things that haven’t happened yet. Just take things one day at a time. And today, I’m pretty sure I’m not dead! ” I was feeling pretty good about myself for that answer for all of 13 seconds or so. Then I remembered being 9 or 10. My parents had gone out for the evening and I was worried about them dying. Neither of them were sick, at all but it was raining. How can I convince her not to fret about this? I racked my brain while she lay next to me silently crying. I wouldn’t have known except I reached out to caress her face and felt the tears. She didn’t speak any more about the subject (or anything else for that matter)before she fell asleep. I prayed over her for good sweet sleep full of happy loving dreams. It just sucks…because her little heart is breaking and I am powerless to help.
It was early evening on the 14th of January 2016 when I got the call. My son and his entire family had been involved in a terrible roll over accident on I-5 on Mt. Shasta. They had been at court in Oregon near Grants Pass and were headed back home toward Sonora. Road conditions were terrible, and in fact later that night chains were required to drive in the area where the accident had taken place. They were all alive (with the exception of the family dog) and aside from being stranded in Redding, CA were for the most part all ok. Bumped, bruised, and seriously shaken up…but all in one piece and ok. I sat stunned at first…then I felt sick. When I learned that Tucker (the dog) was the only casuality I felt so sad. He was the only one not wearing a seatbelt or in a car seat and was thrown out of the van after the first flip. He got up after that, and was running across the interstate to safety when he was struck by a car in the north bound lanes and killed. My sons experience in Iraq as a combat medic kicked in as he began pulling his family from the wreckage. The van had finally come to a rest on its roof, so getting the kids out of their car seats through the blown out windows was no small endeavor. While he worked frantically to free everyone from the wreckage his mind would drift back to the middle east…and the carnage after hitting an improvised explosive device. He knew he was not there now, but somehow couldn’t help but feel the pressure of the moment oddly similar.
I drove to my sisters house in a complete daze. I felt eerily strange. I wanted to see my son desperately, but feasibly there was no way this could happen. (The need to see him, put my hands on him is still strong as I write this 2 days later. Just not quite as urgent as at first. ) I was just going to have to wait it out till he could call me again.
My head began to swim with memories, and images of my boy. We had always had a special bond, from the time he was just a tiny little boy. He was barely two the first time he felt it necessary to try to save me from his father while we fought. It was that incident that helped me make the decision to leave the marriage. I didn’t know if any emotional damage had been done but I knew if I stayed there probably would be. I remembered my beautiful boy as a toddler who hated to take his shoes off when he went to bed because “You never know when you’re gonna have to go!” (his words), then elementary school age and on up through jr. high and then high school. The day I drove him to the airport to leave for basic training was the hardest day of my life. Leaving him behind, he looked so thin, and so young and I SO did not want to leave him alone. Then after his arrival at Ft. Jackson, S.C., we could only talk for a few minutes each time he would call because I didn’t want him to know how heartbroken I was feeling for fear it would distract him from his goals. Then I thought of his children…the birth of his oldest daughter when he was just 17, and how that event deepened our bond, for we now had parenthood in common. I was honored to stand in for him at the birth of his second child, (another girl) as he was away at AIT for the Army and could not attend at that time. Then the phone call when the doctors told him that his third child had a serious heart defect, and perhaps would not survive long after his birth. He just had his 3rd birthday this past November.
Apparently young Zachary is as strong willed and determined to defy the odds as his father has always been. I am so thankful that each one of them is still with us after what happened on that freeway. My sons fiance and sister were also aboard that day, miraculously unscathed as well.
All in all, I walked away from that day once again feeling blessed to still have all my family members in tact. I have a letter of praise to the California Highway Patrol for the kindness and wonderful compassion that was shown my son and his family after the accident. Zach had said without them he was as wrecked as his van, and that they arrived and took care of them like super heroes, even buying a brand new car seat for my grandson to travel home in. Protect and serve they did, and a letter of thanks and gratitude is the least I can do for them in return. In closing I just want to say to everyone I can reach, cherish the moments with your loved ones. Hug your kids tight and kiss them often. In the blink of an eye it can be over. Don’t hold grudges, but forgive and do it often so that if the unthinkable does happen, there are no regrets.